The Pope, Entrepreneurship, and Human Dignity

Original post date: March 20, 2013
Article by: Sam Staley

The new Pope may be more sympathetic to entrepreneurship as a way to alleviate poverty than previous pontiffs. He seems to understand that individual freedom and liberty are essential to creating wealth, and entrepreneurship is a crucial element that elevates the poor to become full participants in society. Michael Matheson Miller has a lot more to say on this over at The American Spectator. A more complete statement by Pope Francis when he was a Cardinal in Argentina can be found here.

Many people may not realize it, but FSU has a unique, active and extensive student-run program,Global Peace Exchange, that sponsors and implements economic development programs in low-income countries. Ruth Krug, a fifth-year senior and former co-director of Global Peace Exchange, thinks the Pope doesn’t go far enough. Ruth has worked on entrepreneurship, microfinance, and empowerment projects in India and Uganda and managed projects in Rwanda and Guatemala while traveling even more extensively around the globe. While she is not Catholic or involved in faith-based initiatives (GPE is strictly secular), Ruth said the following after reading comments by the Pope on economic development based on her experiences designing and implementing these programs:

“At one point the Pope said that social activity ‘must be grounded in morality that puts the human person, and not profit or economic growth, at the center.’ And while I agree with this, it’s about including the poor in the economic growth and profit world that I feel is going to really liberate them. We can’t run away from economics–it’s kind of how our world currently operates; so let’s work within the system to make some changes together. Get the poor in the work force, invest in them as entrepreneurs so they can show the world that being ‘poor’ does not mean they are any less capable of supporting a family and living a life of dignity. In the end I feel people need to do it for themselves to really sustain it. God can be a reason you want to pursue the journey, but in the end you need to empower yourself through your own personal strength and believe in yourself to succeed.”

Perhaps we are near a tipping point at understanding the true nature of economic development, and, ultimately, how it relates to social development. Entrepreneurship is about creating social value, validated through the marketplace, and ultimately wealth. But true entrepreneurship can  only be achieved when individuals are free to pursue their own goals and objectives, not those of someone else. Entrepreneurship and human dignity are inevitably intertwined concepts in a thriving and prosperous economy.

About DeVoe Moore Center

The DeVoe L. Moore Center is conducts economic research and policy analysis focused on state and local policy issues and is located in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University in Tallahassee. As an educational institution the DMC provides professional research experience to undergraduate and master’s students through an extensive program of internships and independent study, preparing them for a future in public policy, economic development, public sector accountability and entrepreneurship.
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